06 July, 2014

The Scoop on the Zoops

Hey guys! This is Ashley, another intern on the team this year! I study Ecology at Arizona State University and work in a zooplankton lab. It’s the second month in Iceland and everything’s awesome so far! At this point, most of us are very comfortable with the protocol for the routine sampling so we are getting quicker and the questions for Cristina and Kyle are becoming less stupid. I am gravitating toward counting and identifying zooplankton and it lends itself well to my independent project. I am working with Kyle focusing on the effects midge larvae density has on the benthic zooplankton community structure. It sounds like it wouldn’t be too difficult right? I just have to manipulate midge larvae density in the benthos and see what the zooplankton do. That’s what I thought before I found myself dropping a 40 lb. potato-masher/destruction bomb to the bottom of the lake. Let me explain…
Our big decision was whether to use a mesocosm that guarantees accurate midge larvae density as opposed to a disturbance mechanism that creates a more natural midge larval absence. Tony has been helping me brainstorm some experimental designs and we were pretty jazzed about creating a way to manipulate larvae in a small plot in the benthos. After a go with a rake-like prototype (“RAKE THE LAKE!”) and a large grate with weights (potato-masher), we found through benthic photos that midges recolonize disturbed areas a lot faster than expected. This obfuscated things a bit, but Tony has me convinced that with some futzing, this design has some serious potential.
The pilot for the mesocosms was pretty rough considering we spent 2 hours on shore sifting sediment during a low midge-density period. Only one pilot actually deployed and there was a whole new set of problems installing zooplankton collection devices. (Shouts out to Tony and Michael for sticking it out on a long, cold, turbulent day on the lake! You guys are the best!) Yes, I trudged back to Gunther with 3 unsuccessful pilot mesocosms and wet boots, but my spirit was not deflated. It’s back to the drawing board for me and the challenge actually makes it really fun. Both ideas are still going to work, but it’s like wiggling a key in a lock, I’ll get it eventually.
I’ll have revisions of my project all set up in a few weeks. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!
Also here's a completely irrelevant photo of Alena, me, and a puffin!

29 June, 2014

June field season 2014

I'm Tony, one of the PIs for our Wisconsin project at Mývatn. I just returned to Madison after a month at Mývatn helping our leaders, Cristina and Kyle, set up this year's field work and doing some planning for the future. By the time I left, pretty much everything was up and running. We have an exceptional group of interns helping us – Lauren, Michael, Alena, and Ashley. They seem set for a great summer. Joe, a new graduate student on the project, is getting his first taste of Iceland. And of course one of the main reasons for my trip was to spend time with Árni, the Mývatn Research Station director who has discovered more about the ecology and archeology of the Mývatn area than anybody else.

This was the fourth consecutive June I've had at Mývatn, which is becoming a home away from home. I sometimes get asked what the area is like, not just the highlights, but also the normal things. Nothing is really normal at Mývatn, but I thought it might help to put together a collage of photos taken in sequence during a day when I traveled around the lake to fertilize some experimental plots that Claudio and I set up two years ago. Fertilization days are my vacation because I get to do the trip on bike.

Kálfaströnd, Ella and Frida's farm where we stay

The road out the Kálfaströnd peninsula, with the mountains Bláfjall (left) and Sellandafjall

The southeast corner of Mývatn looking north towards Kálfaströnd

The Mývatn Research Station in Skútustaðir

The metropolis of Skútustaðir

The fertilization plot at the farm Haganes at the southwest corner of Mývatn

Midges at Haganes

The River Laxá that drains Mývatn. The fishing is supposed to be spectacular, but is highly regulated (and expensive).
The fertilization plots at Helluvaðstjörn, the site where Claudio's lab has extensive long-term projects set up
Midges don't bite, but black flies do.

The North Basin of Mývatn looking south

The largest settlement on the lake, Reykjahlíð

The verslun in Reykjahlíð, where we often shop to get the occasional supplies between major shopping trips to Akureyri

A hot water pond produced by the geothermal plant at the base of Námafjall -- not for swimming

View of Bláfjall from Námafjall

Good pasture with Hverfell in the background

Returning to Kálfaströnd with Sellandafjall in the background